Joseph Benson Akers was born on February 3, 1829 in Akersville, Brush Creek Township in Fulton County, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest son of carding mill owner Israel Akers and his wife, Elizabeth Lewis Akers. The younger Akers was educated locally, taught Sunday School, and then entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the class of 1858. He became a member of the Belles Lettres Society and, following graduation with his class, studied to become a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Akers became a pastor under the East Baltimore Conference in 1858 and served in various churches until 1868, when he moved to the new Central Pennsylvania Conference. There he served as pastor in Howard Township in Centre County and was principal for a short while at the Catawissa Seminary. Akers was also pastor and schoolteacher at Hyner in Centre County and at Whitehaven in Luzerne County. He retired in 1889.
In February 1863, Akers married Henrietta Gallagher. The couple had a son who died in infancy and a daughter, Elizabeth. His first wife died and in May 1874, Akers married Lydia A. Gibbony. This second union produced a son, Herbert, in 1875. Joseph Benson Akers died of a stroke one week after his retirement in Bellwood, Pennsylvania on October 27, 1889. He was sixty years old.